Monday, March 06, 2006

Drudge Comparison Of BAA Indianapolis And Dubai Ports Misplaced

Internet blog king Matt Drudge weighed into the Dubai Port controversy by raising the issue of the management of Indianapolis’ international airport by BAA, a British-owned company which manages seven airports in the U.K. What Drudge overlooks is that BAA also has management contracts with Pittsburg, Boston-Logan and Baltimore airports as well. Drudge attempts to make a deal out of the fact that BAA’s contractual duties include law enforcement. Drudge writes:

Move over PortGate...Indianapolis International Airport, a facility that serves more than 8 million passengers every year, is operated by a foreign-owned company.And the company has stated contractual obligations at the airport -- which include law enforcement! . . . BAA Indianapolis LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of BAA plc, a private company which owns and operates seven airports in the United Kingdom including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports serving London. Indianapolis International is now the largest privately managed airport in the United States. Developing . . .

Drudge’s comparison of the Indianapolis BAA deal to the Dubai Port deal is totally misplaced. Here are just a few of the distinctions we would raise:

    • BAA is a private company in a democratic country; Dubai Ports is a state-owned company in a nation (United Arab Emirates) ruled undemocratically by a collection of emirs.
    • BAA operates under the laws and regulations of a country that has a long history of cooperation and allied support with the U.S. across the board in matters of foreign affairs; the UAE has a history of funding Muslim terrorists, including al Quaeda, and has been used as a home base for launching terrorist strikes against the U.S (2 of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE and wire transfers were made from UAE banks to 9/11 hijackers).
    • The British people’s constitution secures religious freedom and other fundamental
      rights people from democratic countries cherish; the UAE imposes Islamic law and
      outlaws the open practice of other religions, including Christianity and Judaism.
    • The British government opposes an Arab-led boycott of Israel driven by anti-Semitism, while the UAE embraces and enforces a boycott of Israel. It is against American law to support trade relations with countries which participate in the boycott.
    • The British people overwhelmingly oppose acts of terrorism and generally have positive views of Americans, while the masses of Middle Eastern Arab countries, including the UAE, overwhelmingly support acts of terrorism against Americans, who they view as infidels.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it is true that the UAE has been cooperating with U.S. and other allied forces in combating terrorism. But that may have more to do with the desire of the ruling emirs to continue in power courtesy of their American and western sponsors than ending terrorism; without the support of western governments, the emirs would likely be turned out of power as a result of a fundamentalist-inspired revolution like what occurred in Iran in the 1970s and what is happening in Iraq right now to prevent the installation of a democratically-elected government.

Beyond that, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), informs the public that the UAE has a long record of assisting the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons. In making his point that the deal must be killed, a report said of Hunter’s position:

In 2003, Hunter said that United Arab Emirates allowed 66 American-made high speed electrical switches which can be used to trigger nuclear weapons to be sent to a Pakistani business despite U.S. protests.There have been several other transhipments of materials used in the construction of nuclear bombs through Dubai such as centrifuge parts and a liquid used in nuclear reactors, he said."They have a record of turning a blind eye to U.S. interests," Hunter said.While he does not contest the administration's arguments that Dubai has allowed the U.S. military overflight authorization and basing of troops in that country, he said it has also made similar accommodations to countries at odds with America."They have also been allowing the bad guys to use their ports for transshipments," he said. "They have a record of turning a blind eye."

It is precisely these types of concerns that are of utmost importance in considering whether the UAE-owned firm is trustworthy when it comes to managing our nation’s ports. It has nothing to do with hatred of Arabs or Muslims as have been suggested by others.

Indianapolis radio talk show host and blogger, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, lumps everyone who oppose the Dubai Port Deal and the Major Moves initiative into the same camp—xenophobes—persons who are unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples. Our fear of the UAE has nothing to do with it being a foreign country; it has everything to do with what it and its people have represented in the contemporary world in which we live.

In the U.S. we are allowed to practice the religion of our choice without any fear of retribution. It’s against the law in the UAE to practice any religion but Islam. That is not something we’re making up. The UAE is ruled by Islamic law, which trumps any secular laws. Surveys of Middle-Eastern Muslim countries have shown that a majority of the people support suicide-terrorist attacks and have a favorable opinion of Osama bin Laden. As Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a Muslim and the general manager of Arab news channel, Al-Arabiya has said: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims."

Do we fear Dubai Ports running our U.S. ports? Absolutely. But it is has nothing to do with it being a foreign company; it has everything to do with what the company and the people who run it represent as conclusively demonstrated by their past and current actions. It is simply wrong to confuse xenophobia with the valid national security concerns that the Dubai Ports deal raises.

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